Date of Award


Degree Name

PhD Leadership Studies

Dissertation Committee

Fred J. Galloway, EdD, Chair; Kenneth Gonzalez, PhD; Linda Siefert, EdD


case study, higher education, longitudinal, persistence, quantitative, retention, university student cohort


Since the first published work on student persistence in 1929 by Edgerton and Toups, there have been literally thousands of studies that have attempted to unravel the mystery of why some higher education students persist through to graduation while others do not. Many of these studies have been qualitative in nature, restricting their generalizability, while those that have used the few existing national databases to quantitatively study persistence have been restricted to looking within a single year at multiple institutions. What is clearly missing from the literature are methodologically sound, year-to-year persistence studies conducted at individual institutions. This deficiency in the literature is remedied by this study. The study examined the year-to-year persistence of an entire entering cohort of 1,030 students in a private, religiously affiliated liberal arts university in the southwestern United States. Specifically, this study examined the extent to which such variables as student demographics and family background; academic preparation and achievement; institutional financial aid and personal financial factors; as well as select qualities of the collegiate experience influenced the year-to-year persistence of these freshmen over a five-year period. In addition, the study also examined the extent to which the importance of these factors varied as students progressed through their studies to graduation. From an analytic perspective, descriptive statistics were used to characterize the cohort, and hierarchical logistic regression analysis used to estimate a series of nested regression models that examined the year-to-year persistence of each student in the cohort. Results suggest that: demographic and pre-college preparation factors become less significant as students progress through college; institutional experiences can be significant but need to be better recorded across the campus in order to enhance prediction effects; and financial factors such as Net Price and Pain Index vary in significance and influence according to need category and enrollment status. Hopefully, these results can be used by institutional researchers, enrollment managers, and financial aid administrators to help institutions better understand what they need to do to increase retention on their campuses, to allocate scare financial aid resources, and to inform policy decision interventions aimed at optimizing favorable student retention.

Document Type

Dissertation: Open Access


Leadership Studies